Today is an essential day as it is the second and last acclimatization day of the trek (you may remember the first of which was at Namche Bazaar). As we did the previous time, we will use the day to reach a higher altitude and then return to Dingboche to spend the night. One famous saying in high-altitude mountaineering is “Climb high, sleep low”, which means it is wise, and sometimes even essential (while ascending more than 305m / 1,000ft at an altitude of above 3,050m / 10,000 ft) to sleep at a lower altitude than the highest point reached during the day.
Tibo feels better than he did last night, and decided to follow my choice of a huge chocolate pancake for breakfast. That is our mountain food ;-). We leave at round 7:45 am for our acclimatization day hike, aiming for the Nangkartshang summit. The steep slope is quite tiring but well worth it as it offers some of the best views of the Khumbu region.
We pass by lots of cairns (stacked rocks serving as a memorial or landmark) that helped guide us to the top. These are often found on trekking paths or mountain summits across the world, but they blend in especially well with the landscapes here in the Himalaya.
This is the first step of our acclimatization hike, the Nangkartshang Hermitage, where many trekkers choose to stop. Given that we are always looking for more exceptional views and that we are feeling relatively well overall, we decide to push on and reach the summit.
An incredible view of the glacier and the deserted, rocky valley. It’s hard to imagine that just yesterday we were crossing luscious forests full of conifers and rhododendrons.
This trek is nothing short of sensational. The higher up we go, the more we are rewarded with new views of turquoise blue lakes and new summits cutting the horizon. I must have taken fifty pictures of these two adjoining lakes. Are they not incredible with their enchanting color out here in the middle of nowhere?
The path is sometimes difficult to find, so we basically just choose the route that we feel comfortable with, zig-zagging up the slope, to climb to the summit, marked by flags and rocks. The slope is so steep that we very quickly gain altitude.
Honestly, I look at these pictures and ask myself, did we really experience such beauty? Maybe by being constantly surrounded by a 360-degree panorama of these views, coupled with our fatigue and altitude sickness, we didn’t realize fully how lucky we were to be here. Even if we were in awe of these landscapes every day, the unreal beauty and memories captured in our photographs strikes us now more than ever.
Finally arrived at the Nangkartshang summit at 5,083m / 16,700ft!! It was important for this acclimatization hike to have made it above 5,000m / 16,400ft since now we can return to Dingoche at 4,360m / 14,300ft to sleep and let our bodies recover. We stay on the summit for about 30 minutes, enough time to enjoy the views and a snack. We chat for a bit with an Australian trekker (the most represented nationality in the Nepal Himalaya!), who is trekking to Everest Base Camp as a 40th birthday present to himself. All of the people we have spoken to have one thing in common: they are all on their second trip to Nepal. I guess that means we’ll be back? We already can’t wait…
It is then time to return to Dingboche. Do you prefer going uphill or downhill? I actually prefer going uphill even though it’s more physically demanding, because, for me at least, descending is as difficult given different muscles are used to slow down (without mentioning that it’s a disaster for my knees…). It ended up taking us just as much time to get back to Dingboche as it took us to reach the summit, which speaks volumes about our speed hahaha. Tibo gave me his trekking poles so I could use them to reduce the pressure and shocks on my knees, but I really had to take my time as I didn’t feel at ease. It was a long way down so I *decided* to slip on some loose rocks to speed up my descent. I fell onto my elbow and side, but luckily without consequence.
For lunch, Tibo opted for half-fried momos (Nepalese dumplings) stuffed with potatoes and cheese, very similar to Polish pierogis. Unlike many other trekkers, my appetite is still with me so I gobbled up a huge plate of pasta with tomato sauce. I laugh thinking that I am probably the only person here who feels bad not because of the altitude but from having eaten too much.
In the village of Dingboche, you encounter small shops selling canned goods (olives, sardines, pasta, etc.) left behind by Everest expeditions. A team aiming to conquer Everest will consist of approximately 600 porters carrying a staggering 24 TONS of equipment and goods… A large percentage of these provisions are never used and end up being sold to tourists in these local stores and teahouses. In addition to the food in small stores, it is not rare for Sherpa grand-mothers to be seen wearing Gore-Tex gloves or speedily walking along with futuristic trekking poles. A Himalayan recycling, of sorts. To the right, the ‘Everest’ beer and cans of not Red Bull, but Red… Yak.
The secret to a successful trek: update your snack calendar, haha! Tomorrow, for Day 7, we will face off with nightmarish glacial winds up the valley to Lobuche.
Starting point: Dingboche (4,360m / 14,300ft)
723m (2,400ft) ascent / 723m (2,400ft) descent
Arrival point: Nangkartshang Peak (5,083m / 16,700ft) / return to Dingboche (4,360m / 14,300ft)